Hammond man enjoys haunting hobby
By day, Tim Kraus, 40, of Hammond is a maintenance man, by night he's the undertaker ... at least during the month of October.
Kraus has been running "The Town of Tormented Souls" for the past nine years. It only got its official name a few years ago with the help of a few of Kraus's co-workers.
His Halloween hobby started nine years ago when he made a small haunted house in his garage for his daughter Ashley's eighth birthday party on Oct. 20.
"It was black plastic hung on string. I made a maze in the garage. We had the little blinking eyeballs ... Ugh, it was so bad."
For about five or six years the haunted house was in the Kraus home. Zoning eventually forced Kraus to find a new location for his "town."
Last year the haunted house was held on someone's land in Roberts. The owner of the land sold the property, forcing Kraus to look for a new location.
This is the first year the "Town of Tormented Souls" is being held at the St. Croix County Fairgrounds, in Glenwood City. If everything goes well Kraus plans to stay at the Glenwood City location. Don't expect to see the same haunted house year after year. Kraus says they try to always change things up with new props, new rooms and new characters.
"We've got some different stuff we're trying this year," he said.
Kraus' haunted house project is a year- long hobby. The 34-room "town" takes around two months to set up and one month to take down. Planning for the following October's festivities starts immediately after.
"Nov. 1... As soon as we're done, we try to start planning the next one," he said.
It takes between 35 and 40 volunteers a night to run the spooky town.
"All of our actors are volunteers. They're all high school kids from Glenwood, Hammond, Roberts and Baldwin."
He hopes that eventually the haunted house will make enough money to pay the workers.
This year the overhead should be around $6,000, and in nine years the haunted house has never made a profit.
"It's just a hobby. It's an expensive hobby. I don't hunt. I don't fish. I do haunted houses," Kraus said. "It's not all about the money."
Kraus appreciates the handful of people who help him with the main set up, takedown and prop making for the haunted house.
"There is nothing in it for them. They donate their time and effort."
Kraus says he loves scaring people.
"The best thing is you get the college guys with their girlfriend and they start off all macho, by the time they end, they are hiding behind their girlfriend, pushing them through," he said.
Kraus wishes the haunted house could run longer each year. "We all have full-time jobs. We put in 30-40 hours a week here. We set up for two months and it's for 10 days, then we have to tear it down again."
Kraus contemplated not having the haunted house this year, but after asking all of his "core people" how they felt, they decided to do it again.
Kraus hopes to continue the haunted house for years to come.
So what separates "The Town of Tormented Souls" from other haunted houses? Although they don't have the budget like some commercial haunted houses, Kraus says thrill-seekers are going to find more pride in the actors because they enjoy what they're doing and want to do a good job.
"They're not here to get paid. They are here because they want to be," Kraus said.
Kraus's favorite memory is from a few years ago when his wife, as a vampire, jumped out of a wall towards a group of people, scaring them so badly that they actually knocked down three walls.
"The Town of Tormented Souls" is sponsored by a few local businesses. Usually the donations range from $50-$100. Restaurants often donate food for volunteers. Kraus said they try to give their volunteers a hot meal before they work all night.
Kraus stresses that his haunted house is more than just a bunch of dark rooms. "We put a lot of effort into detail, we fill our rooms full of props. Our shelves are full of items. Our rooms are decorated. You go into our living room, there are fireplaces, and shelves and deer hanging on the wall," he said.